HC Deb 17 June 1920 vol 130 cc1420-2
8. Colonel ASHLEY

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he is aware that between 15th April and 3rd June Sinn Fein activities extended to 21 Irish counties and that the activities of this organisation, as officially put forward by them, included assuming the duties of police officers in arresting people, keeping individuals in custody, holding land courts, both primary and secondary, arresting and imprisoning persons for a breach of Sinn Fein land court findings, inflicting terms of imprisonment in republican prisons, and deporting people from the districts in which they live; and will he state what steps, if any, the Government have taken to deal with this assumption of power by a seditious organisation, and what has been done to restore the authority of the King's courts and that of the civil authorities?


Is it not a fact that the people who constitute these voluntary courts are largely the friends of murderers?


It is true that courts, popularly styled Sinn Fein courts, have sat in the counties of Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Kilkenny, Westmeath, Queen's County, Leitrim, Roscommon, Sligo, Galway and Donegal, but there is no evidence to show that they have been established by that illegal organisation, or that they are not, in fact, arbitration courts, voluntarily recognised by parties in conflict. Reports have been received of sentences and punishments inflicted by those courts, but as the persons alleged to have been so treated will not give evidence, or admit the truth of the reports, it is not practicable at present to proceed against the parties who adjudicate in or appear before these courts.

Colonel ASHLEY

Does not the right hon. Gentleman s answer convey to the House that the Irish Government are recognising these courts; and in the case of men being deported, or told they must leave the district, cannot he, at any rate, get them to give evidence, as they are out of the power of the Sinn Feiners?


My answer conveys nothing of the kind suggested by my hon. and gallant Friend. In every case where anyone is alleged to have been brought before a Sinn Fein court, the constabulary has been instructed to make inquiries, but, owing to the intimidation that prevails to a very great extent in those counties, it has been found impossible up to the present to get evidence, although every effort has been made for that purpose.

Captain W. BENN

Is the summing-up of the right hon. Gentleman's answer that in three parts of that country law and order are being maintained by the Sinn Fein courts?


No, Sir; the counties I have mentioned do not make up three-parts of the country.


May I ask whether those criminals who have been sentenced to transportation by Sinn Fein courts have come to this country; and, if so, what steps have been taken by the police in England to protect the community against them?


I have quite enough to look after in my own country.


Is it not a fact that these Sinn Fein courts are the only means at the present time of securing any sort of justice in Ireland?


No, Sir.

Major E. WOOD

If the right hon. Gentleman holds the view that these are voluntary courts, will he take steps to encourage their establishment in all parts of Ireland?


I did not convey that they were voluntary courts, or that I hold that view. All I said was that we could not get people to give evidence because of intimidation.

15. Captain FOXCROFT

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether his attention has been drawn to the form of summons used in the Sinn Fein courts in many counties in Ireland, purporting to be issued by the Irish republican government; and what steps the Government are taking to protect His Majesty's subjects upon whom such summonses are served, and to prevent the usurpation by these illegal tribunals of the criminal jurisdiction of His Majesty's courts?


I have seen an alleged copy of the summonses. In the absence of evidence from the persons aggrieved identifying the parties serving the summonses, or at whose instance they are served, no prosecution can at present be sustained.